Neil DeGrasse Tyson Explains Why We Need NASA and How We Stopped Dreaming


On the news today that the next two missions to Mars have been scrapped, I was reminded of this video from one of my heroes, space-enthusiast and astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Juxtaposed with images of the space race and space travel, he explains why it was we went to space in the first place (to beat Russia there) and now because we have no enemy to fight, we’ve lost interest. We’ve stopped dreaming about such things, and even though NASA is the tiniest of costs to our country, even a modest increase in funding could take us places we’ve never been before. But instead, we get budget cuts and cancelled Mars missions.

It just makes me sad that in my lifetime, I doubt we’ll ever make any significant progress in space, keeping science-fiction, fiction.

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  1. Do an internship at NASA…it will completely change your opinion. NASA is a clusterfuck. The Apollo missions basically crippled long term space goals because of the heavy investment in doing just one thing, putting 3 men in orbit around the moon. It was gross-fully inefficient. The Saturn rocket left NASA with massive facilities they couldn’t even use.

    The mentality of NASA is truly fucked. You know what really caused the Columbia disaster? Fucking power point. Engineers were warning up and down that the space shuttle had problems. But political appointees put in charge have the attention span of circus monkeys. So everything gets put into power points over and over again, until by the time it gets to the top level, its more akin to a Denny’s kids menu than an actual technical document. I’m not even joking about this. The underlying cause of the Columbia disaster is that the folks that decide whether or not to launch a space shuttle depend on a fucking 14 page slide show with pretty pictures.

    But its not over at all. You assume like most Americans, that space travel is a NASA endeavor only. China is actually gearing up to reach the moon in 2030. I doubt they will pull it off in time but they are very serious. They are also using it as a launching point for further Martian exploration. Also, the private industry is making big inroads into lower and upper orbit travel. I personally feel that the management style of NASA simply does not work in a technical and complex field like this. Projects of these scales require long term planning, with heavy cost analysis. NASA has to deal with every four years or so with the head of NASA getting appointed, usually with limited experience in running an organization as complex as NASA. Its also heavily politicized and subject to retarded funding decisions (like the proposal of the Obama Administration to trash the Hubble Telescope to save a tiny amount of the operating budget, literally throwing one of the most important tools ever created by man). Often times, its like Lord of the Flies where various branches of NASA are at each other throats to try and as much needed funding as possible. Saddest day of my life was seeing the faces of the team developing the Lunar lander project hearing that were are scrapping going to the moon, to instead land on a fucking asteroid. Yeah…that’s a reasonable goal Scrapped everything and then waited a few months for Obama to get around and just admit its smoke and mirrors to get around gutting the whole project all together, without having to admit as much. Not like Bush was anything to praise. That idiot never visited a single NASA facility in all his time as governor and president. I still suspect he thinks the Earth is flat.

    Sorry I’m long winded but if you did any time with NASA you would see how its basically like the DMV…terrible morale, little advancement, and piss poor project security.

  2. The fact that NASA needs proper leadership and governance should not detract from what NASA has achieved and the impact it has had on modern society. The baby should not be thrown out with the bath water.

    That video was really moving. That’s the sort of stuff that inspired me to get an engineering degree in the first place. And frankly, in my humble opinion, engineers and scientists create value to society not speculators on Wall Street.

    I’m looking to China and India to take over the leadership in this ‘space’ (pardon the pun). They’ve certainly got the human resource skills to do it.

  3. I want to apologize for the tone and the quality of my original posting. For one thing, I was doing it in the middle of a class (I’m a terrible student sometimes) so I was a bit too distracted to make sure there were no grammar and spelling issues.

    I also think it comes off as if I hate NASA and space exploration. I don’t. The problem is that NASA, like a lot of government institutions, has a perception among the public that is not very accurate. They have some of the smartest, most dedicated folks in the world. If they had the resources and the support, Mars could be visited within our lifetime easily. But much like my time as an enlisted sailor in the military, my views with working on NASA projects as a student was a bit heartbreaking. I imagine it would be like a child visiting Willy Wonka’s Factory and seeing the reality the Ompa Loopa’s face everyday.

    I firmly believe that the further exploration and colonization of space will be economically driven in the future; not just a political tool as it was during the space race. I compare it to the Westward Expansion of the US, which was driven by private homesteaders and not just the Department of Agriculture.

    Again, its not the end of space advancement if NASA is no longer taking the lead. The development history of the Space Shuttle is pretty much a perfect example of how government oversight crippled a project by deciding detailed design objectives of a complex system along the lines of a Congressional Budget Committee more concern with securing kick backs to districts than building a proper space vehicle.

    Jesus…I better stop. I am going to rant and rant all day long.

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